Way to Grow is a locally-owned chain of gardening equipment suppliers. They started in Fort Collins, CO and have since been opening up stores throughout the state. With their success, they wanted to give back to the communities that had given them so much, so they created a charitable arm of their business called Way to Grow Gives! Their mission is to assist urban farmers in cultivating successful gardens and educating people about good food and how to grow it.
Urban farming is the practice of growing small gardens in spaces that…well, aren’t traditional areas where you’d find gardens. Like your rooftop. Or an inner-city public school. Or your front or backyard. As our cities and population grow, we will need to find more space to grow good, healthy food. Urban farming is part of that answer, and it’s taken off in the last few years. Cities across the United States, and indeed the world, are finding creative ways to grow healthy food locally in order to keep food production local, provide access to good food to those in need, and to cut the carbon footprint of food production. Urban farms now supply food to over 700 million city dwellers – one quarter of the world’s urban population.
So Way to Grow partnered with a few area urban farmers and asked if we’d like to help by producing a video to tell their story. Of course, we were stoked to be a part of this partnership.
First, we headed down Happy Belly Farms, a Denver area urban farm that donates every pound of food grown to local food banks to feed the needy.
You may not be able to tell from the photos or the video (coming soon), but Happy Belly lives less than a half mile from a large outlet shopping center, and even closer still to a gigantic distribution center for WalMart. This farm is in industrial central, and even though it’s small, they are able to produce a LOT of food for those in need thanks to support from local volunteers and business partners like Way to Grow, who provide resources and materials to keep the farm running. This small farm – maybe 50×50 yards – produces over 13 tons of food each year, every pound of which heads to local homeless shelters and food banks to feed people in our communities that don’t normally have access to fresh, organic, chemical-free produce.
We arrived on a cool summer morning, slightly overcast (which is perfect for filming), ready to help out on the farm. Bill had put out the word that it was harvest day, and quite a few volunteers from the community showed up to help. We had 700 pounds of lettuce to harvest! While Bill, Corey (CEO of Way to Grow), and the volunteers got started harvesting, we started shooting, even setting up the jib for nice sweeping shots of the harvest!
By the time the local food bank showed up to pick up the harvest, we were just finishing our shots of the day’s haul. That’s a lot of fresh lettuce! And it’s going right to the plates of those who need it most.
Day 1 of shooting complete!
For the next two days, we headed to Denver Public Schools(DPS). DPS has partnered with GroundWork Denver to plant, cultivate, and harvest organic vegetable gardens on school property. Once again, Way to Grow donated materials and resources, even setting up a partnership between a hydroponic farm and the DPS where the farm provided fertlizer to the schoolyard gardens. Last year they produced 13,000 pounds of vegetables on 1 acre of Denver Public School’s land and expects to double it this year.
But the best part of this was the kids. The same kids who live in these communities and go to these schools spend their summer days helping grow the gardens. We were lucky enough to interview a lot of the kids, and they all have great stories. The common thread among all of them is that they had learned a lot about farming, and more importantly about food – where it comes from and what’s good for you. Most of them said they were able to talk to their families and friends about healthy food choices, and that they had eaten new vegetables that they’d never tried before because they had helped to grow them.
And that’s really what this whole thing is about: sustainably growing food locally, providing healthy nutrition for those in our communities who need it, and educating the next generation of urban farmers. It’s an honor and privilege to be a part of this great movement!